The Guide to Shoe Construction

Men’s dress shoes - you wear it all the time but do you know what's inside them? Have you ever wondered what makes a quality dress shoe? Here we will look into the various dress shoe constructions - the method through which the sole is attached to the upper of the shoe.

The 3 main methods of shoe construction are: Cemented Construction, Blake Stitching and Goodyear Welting. At Gaius Walks, our Walks are made using the Cemented Construction and we will go in depth later on why we chose this method. 

First, here’s some dress shoe terminology you should know:

Last: A 3D model of a foot, plastic or wooden, used to maintain shape of shoe, used for  both design and construction.
Upper: The uppermost part of a shoe that’s attached to the sole and covers the foot when worn. 
Insole: The bottom part inside of the shoe that makes contact with the sole of your foot. 
Outsole: Commonly referred to as the “sole,” this makes contact with the ground
Welt: Strip of leather sewn along the bottom edge of a shoe and is attached to both the insole and upper.

 

1) Cemented Construction

The Cemented Construction method is the most cost effective and common method of attaching the sole of a shoe. Once the upper is shaped and completed around the last, the sole is attached with a strong adhesive that is made to withstand heat, wear and moisture.

Advantages: Contrary to common belief, the Cemented Construction allows easy resoling and may be replaced easily. Using this shoe construction technique allows for competitive prices, relative durability and versatility.  

Disadvantages: It is not possible to repair a cemented rubber sole once it starts to detach. If it detaches, the entire sole must be replaced.

2) Blake Stitching

The Blake Stitching method is a step up in quality from the Cemented Construction. Instead of glue or cement, it involves stitching the upper to the sole. This method requires a specialized machine as stitching is done on the inside of the shoes.

Advantages: The simpler construction with a single stitch means it is less expensive and just as durable compared to Goodyear Welting. The process also allows resoling once the sole is worn out or damaged. As a result of the fewer layers compared to a goodyear welt, a blake-stitched sole is more flexible with a relatively shorter break-in period. The flexibility is beneficial for movement, comfort, and durability.

Disadvantages: Depending on your cobbler, resoling may be difficult and sometimes expensive because a specific Blake machine is needed to do it.

While fewer layers make the sole flexible, it reduces the water resistancy compared to Goodyear Welting. Water can be wicked up through the sole and begin to pool more quickly and easily.

3) Goodyear Welting

Goodyear Welting is the most labor intensive and most durable of the three methods of construction. It can be done by machine or by hand and involves multiple steps.

The biggest difference here is a canvas rib under the insole with a high strength adhesive and a strip of leather (welt) around the perimeter of the sole. The shoemaker fills the cavity between the insole and midsole with cork filling, while the welt is sewn to the midsole and outsole with a Rapid Stitch.

Advantages: Two-level stitching - the upper is attached to the welt via one stitch whereas the outsole is attached to the welt via a second isolated stitch. With the welt acting as a bridge between these two components, resoling is incredibly easy and can be done many times. The extra layers make a relatively water resistant, sturdy and durable shoe.  

Disadvantages: Goodyear Welted Shoes are the most expensive given its labour intensive process. The additional materials and layers make a chunky and heavy shoe, leaving it with a long break-in period, which can be uncomfortable for people who potentially have foot pain. The extra layers that provide more structure come at the cost of flexibility. Some gentlemen find the interior stitching less comfortable than the Blake Stitching method.

Why Cemented Construction at Gaius Walks?

At Gaius Walks, our soles are made of micro-traction rubber composite with increased hardness for longer durability. Cemented Construction combined with our high quality full grain calf leather uppers offer great performance and economic viability. It is easy and inexpensive to replace a worn out rubber sole. We believe that this method offers the best price to durability ratio and is excellent for people who are seeking value.

Upgrading your Walks

For those who desire that extra touch of handcrafted goodness, we offer a range of customised Shoe Services. We provide resoling services for all Gaius Walks models except for our casual loafers (Sergio Driver Loafers and Carlo Suede Tassel Loafers). Select from a range of premium Vibram rubber to full leather soles to add to the longevity of the Walks.

We also offer the option to upgrade your Walks to the Blake Stitching method to further increase the durability. Our Blake Stitching method uses wax threading to increase the water resistance and prevents water from wicking up. 

You may take a look at our Shoe Services menu here. For services not listed in our menu, you may contact us for assistance. 

Remember, there is no particular method that is objectively superior to the other and they all serve different purposes. Ultimately, these methods define how a sole is attached and not the quality of the leather.